October 17, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Trump World's desperate Hunter Biden pseudo-scandal backfired on them in record time (Joshua Holland, 10/17/20, Raw Story)

In the course of one week, we've moved from The New York Post's supposed "blockbuster" proving that Hunter Biden had arranged a meeting between an official with Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas company whose board the younger Biden sat on, and then-Vice President Joe Biden to a contrived controversy over Twitter banning the story from its platform because it contained personal email addresses and phone numbers and we ended up with reports about Rudy Giuliani's apparent involvement in a clumsy scheme to launder hacked emails through a Seth Rich-truther at a computer shop, the likelihood that the emails were forged and the FBI investigating the whole thing as a disinformation campaign undertaken by foreign adversaries. When they rolled out the "story" on Monday, they probably didn't expect headlines like "Rudy: Only '50/50' Chance I Worked With a 'Russian Spy' to Dig Dirt on Bidens" to be prevalent by Saturday.

It's been a Helluva ride.

One should keep in mind that while the conservative media have run dozens of stories this week with "smoking gun" in their headlines, there's absolutely nothing here. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM

BACK TO RACISM (profanity alert):

Smearing Hunter Biden Failed. Now What?: The Trump campaign's long-planned October Surprise was a dud, and they look out of ideas (Nicholas Grossman, Oct 17, 2020, Arc Digital)

The story smelled from the start and unraveled quickly. It began with a false premise, presenting then-Vice President Biden's effort to oust a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor as personal, when he actually acted on behalf of the Obama administration with support from Congressional Republicans and the European Union. The article's source was Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was not-coincidentally part of the scheme to extort the president of Ukraine into manufacturing an investigation of the Bidens, which got Trump impeached. The Post also gave Trump's 2016 campaign chair Steve Bannon, who was recently indicted for fraud, a hat tip for alerting them to the emails' existence.

Rudy's story of how he got these emails is laughable, and he's already changed it once. The Wall Street Journal's Kevin Poulson pointed out that, according to metadata, the PDF files Rudy gave The Post were created over a year ago. It's not clear if the emails were stolen or fabricated -- maybe some of both -- but even if they're real, they show nothing more than a Ukrainian businessman thanking Hunter for introducing him to Joe. The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that U.S. intelligence warned the White House last year that Russian intelligence was trying to use Giuliani as a conduit for influence operations, and had met with him in December 2019 when Rudy traveled to Ukraine looking for information that could tie the Bidens to corruption. [...]

Releasing these Hunter Biden emails, in this way, at this time, looks like an attempt to replicate last election's October surprises. On October 7, 2016, news of the Access Hollywood tape with Trump saying "grab them by the pussy" became public, and within a half hour, WikiLeaks began posting hacked emails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. On October 28, FBI Director James Comey informed Congress of more Hillary Clinton emails to review.

Those email stories dominated the news, but the Hunter Biden emails haven't. Hunter isn't the candidate. Biden isn't Hillary. And 2020 isn't 2016.

Rudy: Only '50/50' Chance I Worked With a 'Russian Spy' to Dig Dirt on Bidens: In a wild interview, the president's personal attorney made clear he believes he's on a mission to torpedo the Bidens. And he doesn't care who supplied the ammunition. (Asawin Suebsaeng & Erin Banco,  Oct. 17, 2020, Daily Beast)

Sure, the U.S. Treasury Department may have declared one of his former associates--Ukrainian parliamentarian Andrii Derkach, who worked with Giuliani on his hunt for dirt on the Bidens--to be an "active Russian agent." But that's some Deep State talk, he added. "The chance that Derkach is a Russian spy is no better than 50/50."

"My guess is that George Soros is behind this counter-offensive... because he wants to create a socialist country," Giuliani baselessly alleged. "He'd like to see us collapse and see us taken over by the international... whatever." Giuliani said that Derkach's eventual sanctioning was the result of "an intelligence ploy to try to create problems for Trump--because Derkach could probably bury Obama." [...]

Giuliani said he viewed his latest leak to the New York Post as an extension of his years-long efforts to work with Ukrainians to dig up dirt on the Bidens. But nearly all of his former Ukrainian associates have either been arrested and indicted by federal law enforcement or are no longer welcome in the U.S. One of those individuals is Derkach, the pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian sanctioned by the Treasury Department for being a "Russian agent" and peddling disinformation to undermine the 2020 presidential elections.

As The Daily Beast has previously reported, Derkach for years has tried to pass damaging--and largely false--information about the Ukraine government's supposed attempts to undermine Trump, and the Bidens' supposed dirty dealings in Kyiv. Derkach dispatched packets of disinformation about the Obama administration and the Bidens to lawmakers on Capitol Hill throughout 2019 and finally met with Giuliani in December 2019 in Kyiv during the middle of the House impeachment process. Derkach and Giuliani appeared together in an anti-Biden television series produced by the Trumpist network OAN, and Giuliani has interviewed Derkach about the Bidens on his YouTube video series Common Sense.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Neo-Nazi and Proud Boys groups push Trump campaign poll watching operation online: Reports (Josh Margolin,Olivia Rubin, andLuke Barr, October 16, 2020, ABC News)

The measures come as online accounts tied to neo-Nazi sympathizers and "alt-right" groups such as the Proud Boys have been generating posts that encourage supporters to join the campaign's Election Day operations, according to two new reports this week. That includes sending out links to poll-watching registration sites for the Trump campaign's so-called Army for Trump, an effort working to recruit thousands of supports to sign up as poll watchers for the campaign on Election Day.

In one instance, a Proud Boys-affiliated user, in a group that claimed to circulate to 1,800 people affiliated with the Proud Boys, shared the link to sign up, writing that Democrats "don't want us Republicans to be in their polls," according to the report from SITE Intelligence Group, a non-governmental agency group that tracks potential security threats online, that was released on Tuesday. A separate SITE report released on Thursday said a link was shared within a neo-Nazi channel that claims to have about 5,000 members.

"The call to watch the polls, initially made by President Trump himself in the first presidential debate, has been answered by several far-right groups," the SITE report said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


What if a Pill Can Change Your Politics or Religious Beliefs?: A new mental health treatment using the psychedelic compound psilocybin raises questions about medicine and values (Eddie Jacobs, October 11, 2020, Scientific American)

How would you feel about a new therapy for your chronic pain, which--although far more effective than any available alternative--might also change your religious beliefs? Or a treatment for lymphoma that brings one in three patients into remission, but also made them more likely to vote for your least preferred political party?

These seem like idle hypothetical questions about impossible side effects. After all, this is not how medicine works. But a new mental health treatment, set to be licensed next year, poses just this sort of problem. Psychotherapy assisted by psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in "magic mushrooms," seems to be remarkably effective in treating a wide range of psychopathologies, but also causes a raft of unusual nonclinical changes not seen elsewhere in medicine.

Although its precise therapeutic mechanisms remain unclear, clinically relevant doses of psilocybin can induce powerful mystical experiences more commonly associated with extended periods of fasting, prayer or meditation. Arguably, then, it is unsurprising that it can generate long-lasting changes in patients: studies report increased prosociality and aesthetic appreciation, plus robust shifts in personality, values and attitudes to life, even leading some atheists to find God. What's more, these experiences appear to be a feature, rather than a bug, of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, with the intensity of the mystical experience correlating with the extent of clinical benefit.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Do We Live in a Simulation? (Anil Ananthaswamy, October 13, 2020, Scientific American)

It is not often that a comedian gives an astrophysicist goose bumps when discussing the laws of physics. But comic Chuck Nice managed to do just that in a recent episode of the podcast StarTalk. The show's host Neil deGrasse Tyson had just explained the simulation argument--the idea that we could be virtual beings living in a computer simulation. If so, the simulation would most likely create perceptions of reality on demand rather than simulate all of reality all the time--much like a video game optimized to render only the parts of a scene visible to a player. "Maybe that's why we can't travel faster than the speed of light, because if we could, we'd be able to get to another galaxy," said Nice, the show's co-host, prompting Tyson to gleefully interrupt. "Before they can program it," the astrophysicist said, delighting at the thought. "So the programmer put in that limit."

Such conversations may seem flippant. But ever since Nick Bostrom of the University of Oxford wrote a seminal paper about the simulation argument in 2003, philosophers, physicists, technologists and, yes, comedians have been grappling with the idea of our reality being a simulacrum. Some have tried to identify ways in which we can discern if we are simulated beings. Others have attempted to calculate the chance of us being virtual entities. Now a new analysis shows that the odds that we are living in base reality--meaning an existence that is not simulated--are pretty much even. But the study also demonstrates that if humans were to ever develop the ability to simulate conscious beings, the chances would overwhelmingly tilt in favor of us, too, being virtual denizens inside someone else's computer.


Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Tabloid's Biden email episode illustrates Giuliani risk to Trump campaign (ERIC TUCKERm 10/17/20, Times of Israel)

That hasn't stopped the FBI from investigating whether the emails are part of a foreign influence operation. The emails surfaced as US officials have been warning that Russia, which backed Trump's 2016 campaign through hacking of Democratic emails and a covert social media campaign, is interfering again this year. The latest episode with Giuliani underscores the risk he poses to a White House that spent years confronted by a federal investigation into whether Trump associates had coordinated with Russia.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that intelligence agencies had warned the White House last year that Giuliani was the target of a Russian influence operation. The newspaper, citing four former officials, said that assessment was based on information including intercepted communications showing Giuliani had been in contact with people tied to Russian intelligence.

The newspaper said national security adviser Robert O'Brien had warned Trump that information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia, but that Trump brushed off the warning.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM